Course:3: Processing
Lesson:Lesson 5 – Processing: Putting It All Together
Topic:Identify the Original Order


Identify the Original Order

In order to identify the original order of the collection, you must look through each box and evaluate what you see.  Can you identify an order in the records?

In this case, when you look through the records you find that each file folder is labeled by the exhibit venue and date; however, the files are not in any particular order within the boxes and look somewhat disheveled, possibly indicating that they were hastily boxed without regard for the original order.

Identify Your Arrangement Options

You should identify three arrangement options based on this review. Think about what they might be, then click here to view.


Should you leave the files in their original order?



Decide Which Arrangement To Use 

The factors you must consider are:

  • What is the most likely original order?
  • How will researchers want to look for information?

It seems most likely that files such as these records were filed either alphabetically or chronologically, since you can identify no logical order within the files as they are currently boxed, and since it seems likely that the records were boxed hastily. Unfortunately, you cannot find any clues to indicate which of the two systems might have been used.

You try contacting Emily Smith, Lisaís daughter, who donated the collection. Unfortunately she doesnít know how the files were organized.

Without these clues, you must consider the users of the collection. How will they use it? What will they be looking for? What arrangement will most effectively meet their needs?

You speculate that most users of the collection will be researching the development of the style of the artist or be researching a particular painting. What arrangement will facilitate access to those kinds of research issues?

Chronological Order?
Arranging the collection chronologically would highlight the development of the artistís style and the development of her career (as demonstrated by the increasing prestige of the exhibit venues). Further, if a researcher knew the approximate date for a painting (which is likely), a chronological order would make searching easier. A chronological arrangement also seems a likely original order, as each file was created as each exhibit occurred through time.

Alphabetical Order?
Arranging the collection alphabetically by venue name keeps the arrangement simple and straightforward. But, you think, it would not highlight the artistís developing style or the increasing prestige of her career. Researchers looking for information on a particular painting would have to know where the painting was exhibited, which seems unlikely.

Your Choice
Make your choice based on these factors. Click here to see what we chose for this scenario.


A, B, C . . .
1, 2, 3 . . .?

If you can't tell the original order, then base your decision on which order would be most helpful to researchers.

 Students researching
In the case of the Lisa Smith collection, researchers are probably interested in learning about the artist's style and development.